Simply, Bogart

Bogie A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart 
Autumn is just one day away (although I am going to ignore that and stretch summer just a touch longer, to the 22nd of September, the official end of summer), so it makes perfect sense to start talking and seeking real style again. As if I needed a reason to talk about Humphrey Bogart.

Bogart made personal style into an art form. He was a very smart and well-read man, he struck a chord with men and women alike and he hated the whole “movie star” thing. He made a parody of the “stars-at-home” images suggesting a healthy outdoor life, by posing for the camera while sitting on the couch, dressed in a white shirt and tailored trousers with socks and sandals, and surrounded by his dog, tennis racquet, golf clubs, and fishing rod. He stood apart through his honesty, integrity and confidence. He was a template for masculinity. Even in those days, when class and genuine style were the norm, Bogart raised above it. He thought he was no better than anyone else and that’s how he lived his life. “A man with a tough shell hiding a fine core. […] By showily neglecting the outward forms of grace, he kept inferior men at a distance.” – Alistair Cooke, in the book Bogie: A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart, by Richard Schickel and George Perry.
 
Bogie A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart

Bogie A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart 
Humphrey Bogart had an unmatched magnetism, which hasn’t dissipated with time. “His reputation never depended on his looks, but on the force of his exceptional talent, the intelligence, subtlety and depth he brought to his performances.” That’s exactly where his true sense of style stemmed from. A sense of style that was built in time, just like his stardom. “He was no overnight sensation, his ascendency took time and patience.” Don’t all good things take time and patience?

The Maltese Falcon (1941) established the emblematic image of the trench-coated, hunch-shouldered figure of Bogart, the front brim of his fedora tilted downward. Not only was film noir defined, but also the quintessence of the private eye: hard boiled, cynical, ruthless, courageous, driven by an ethical code that he alone understands and respects. That look became his trademark.

In The Big Sleep (1946), simplicity was the key word for Marlowe’s wardrobe: plain shirt, plain tie, plain jacket, trench, a great overcoat, and a few great little details like the fedora, the watch and the perfect pocket square – you don’t have to try too hard, it doesn’t take much effort, but it’s all it takes to dress well. In The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), his look wasn’t that polished (John Huston took his actors from the comfort of the studio and exiled them in the dusty aridity of Mexico, an environment that plays out as a true character, willing to challenge whatever good is left in a man), but his acting was taut and edgy, one of his most memorable roles. No one was prepared for Bogart’s bold performance, different from what he had done so far, “acting that is clearly based on observation and imagination rather than on attractively polished aspects of his private self,” a performance that would only be equaled by his part in In A Lonely Place (1950).

And, in real life, Bogie found a woman that matched his style, his class. Lauren Bacall’s name was often tied to Bogart (much to her annoyance), but I believe each burnished the other’s legend. They simply were that good together.

Humphrey Bogart remains one of the most legendarily well-dressed film stars of all time, his style on and off screen as iconic as anything else about him. And not one note of false glamour to amuse the public.
 
Bogie A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart

Bogie A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart

Bogie A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart

photos by me from the book Bogie: A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart | quotes from the book

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Denim on Film: Little Fauss and Big Halsy

Lauren Hutton Robert Redford Little Fauss and Big Halsy
 

Before summer’s end, let us indulge in the most simple, democratic,
sincere, sexy and authentic piece of clothing, blue jeans,
and everything denim.


 
At first look, Little Fauss and Big Halsy is notably forgettable. Forget about plot and story arc. But just because a movie fails to shape an overall narrative, it doesn’t mean the actors are any less good in it. Robert Redford, as Halsy Knox (Michael J. Pollard plays Little Fauss), turns in a great performance and it’s a shame the film doesn’t live up to his commitment. Redford usually comes off as a likeable guy in his movies, even if his character is not exactly a nice guy. In Michael Feeney Callan’s 2011 biography, Robert Redford, there is a remark on Redford’s involvement in Little Fauss and Big Halsy (1970). According to Callan, Redford expressively chose this project as his follow-up to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) because he wanted to undermine his likeable screen image. Indeed, Halsy Knox is a contemptible opportunistic, who swindles everyone he meets, but rarely thinks beyond his next meal or sexual conquest. There is nothing likeable about him, and that’s exactly why Redford’s performance has stuck with me.

Then there is a great soundtrack album sang by none other than Johnny Cash. And, of course, most importantly, there are Lauren Hutton and Robert Redford all cladded in double denim, white tees and sweatshirts, exemplifying American cool. Because, let’s face it, some movies are meant to be enjoyed for the costumes alone, and, as in the case of this movie, for the denim overload – Ted Parvin was the costume designer.

Whether regarded as a way of life, a cult object, or a piece of fashion that never goes out of style, jeans still retain the robust, original appeal and individual rebellion that they have always possessed. “Jeans were the garment not only of workers, but also of bikers, rockers and peaceniks, and, ultimately, everyman and -woman,” says Josh Sims in his book, Icons of Men’s Style. Everyone seems to own at least one pair of jeans. But while jeans are designated as the go-to utilitarian piece of clothing for just about everyone, Robert Redford and Lauren Hutton are not every man and every woman. Let’s elaborate on that.
 
Denim on Film Robert Redford Little Fauss and Big Halsy

Denim on Film Robert Redford Little Fauss and Big Halsy

Denim on Film Robert Redford Little Fauss and Big Halsy

Denim on Film Robert Redford Little Fauss and Big Halsy 
Denim on denim on denim

Robert Redford’s perfectly-weathered, impeccably rugged leather cap and double denim look could very well be considered as predating the Ralph Lauren style and cinematic ad campaigns. It embodies the ease, freedom and sturdiness of the Western-inspired American look that Lauren has forever been influenced by in his designs. After all, Robert Redford is one of those very few who have turned the potentially disastuous double-denim option into a classic. Rarely anyone is cited as inspiration more than Robert Redford, be it in one of his roles, or on his own time, in his own home in the mountains in Utah. And I think that this enduring status, just as in the case of all cinema’s sartorial emblems, is due to the fact that Redford’s day-to-day style has always seemed to come through in his films just as much as his style when in character has transcended the screen.
 
All American Style Robert Redford Little Fauss and Big Halsy
 
Denim on Film Robert Redford Little Fauss and Big Halsy
 
Denim on Film Robert Redford in Little Fauss and Big Halsy 
The sunglasses

Robert Redford seems to have worn a great pair of sunglasses in just about every movie he’s made, from Downhill Racer to Three Days of the Condor (although, in Pollack’s film, he only wore prescription eyeglasses; the much talked about mirrored Aviator sunglasses were only used for publicity stills), but the one I associate the most with the actor’s all-American look is the one from Little Fauss and Big Halsy. Unlike the film, only good things can be said about these Aviator shades, as much a part of being an American as blue jeans. The Aviators are a constant of Halsy’s look, and he wears every possible type of hat with them, too, from a leather aviator helmet and the vintage leather cap, to a cowboy hat and even a bowler hat.
 
All American Cool Lauren Hutton Little Fauss and Big Halsy

Lauren Hutton on the set Little Fauss and Big Halsy 
Lauren Hutton

In a 1973 profile, Harper’s Bazaar observed: “Lauren is anything but a classical beauty. Her nose flies west, her mouth flies north, she can cross her left eye at will. She made herself beautiful by learning, watching, willing – not by surgically altering her defects.” It’s Lauren Hutton I like to think of when I think of American beauty. Diana Vreeland proclaimed her “the best of America”. Genuine smile that’s infectious, undone elegance, a relaxed-yet-confident cool, and, as she has advanced in age, embracing her own individuality with grace and maturity. It’s what sets her apart from the overdone American woman that’s taken over the beauty standards of today.

Her radiant beauty, with her golden complexion and sun-bleached hair, and athletic body, are obvious in Little Fauss and Big Halsy, too. Her character, Rita Nebraska, a hippie, a drop-out from a wealthy background, doesn’t have much to say in the film, but, as far as her wardrobe goes, it’s like she’s playing herself when she carries so well her disheveled, windswept casual outfits – Lauren Hutton has always been a tomboy in real life, well known for her love for jeans, white tees, travel and the open road. Her story takes second seat to what Rita is wearing throughout the film: high-waisted, straight-legged blue jeans, one perfectly over-sized chambray shirt, a pair of denim shorts, a couple of white shirts, a white t-shirt and beige pants, and white sneakers. It can’t get any more simple and cool than that.
 
Classic American Style Lauren Hutton Little Fauss and Big Halsy

Lauren Hutton Little Fauss and Big Halsy

Lauren Hutton Little Fauss and Big Halsy 
The Yamaha white t-shirt

Perfectly weathered, the white t-shirt emblazoned with the Yamaha logo, is worn with beige jeans. This is not an immaculate white t-shirt that Rita is wearing. It’s not even hers. It’s probably borrowed from one of the boys. Which only works in its favour. Comfortable and informal, simple and practical, it serves a very real purpose: covering Rita when she arrives naked in Fauss and Halsy’s lives. The t-shirt, after all, is one of those understated garments that are meant for accompanying us throughout our lives; it’s made for living. It’s a pity though that every character in Little Fauss and Big Halsy seems to stride through life aimlessly. Most of the film was shot outdoors, and the bleak, desolate, sun-baked landscape becomes a visual signifier for the going-nowhere characters.
 
Denim on Film Little Fauss and Big Halsy 
Note: Because I love denim every day, every season, this is part one of the new Style in Film sub-series, Denim on Film, that kicks off today on the blog.
 
photos: 2-6, 9, 13-15: film stills (captured by me) | Alfran Productions/Furie Productions/Paramount Pictures / 1,7,8,10-12: from the movie set (Lauren Hutton photographed by Steve Shapiro)

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Shirt Stories: Christiane Spangsberg

Shirt Stories Christiane Spangsberg 
I made a studio visit yesterday and although I can not reveal anything about it yet, my mind is still set on this theme of artist at work. Many of the artists and designers I admire, some of which I have personally met, when it comes to their own personal style, are committed to some sort of a uniform. By keeping their outfits as incospicuous as possible, they make sure they are not distracted from their creative work. And they invariably stick to what suits them best, thus channeling their attention to what really interests them, their art.

The name of Christiane Spangsberg sprang immediately to mind. The Copenhagen-based artist and her Picasso-like, Fauvist-inspired drawings have become something of a sensation; everybody in fashion and design seems to be talking about her. Her NYC exhibition, held this June, sold out almost immediately. I personally discovered Christiane’s work on Instagram, one of those moments when you feel your consciousness has been awaken, when you find yourself intrigued by what you see, realising you are in the presence of the new: a distinctive voice, a fresh aesthetic. The simplicity and complexity of it, the sense of curiosity it evokes, that deep signature blue paint. That being said, I never try to explain art, really, not even that which I like, because I believe art to be very subjective, and every one understands it differently.
 
Christiane Spangsberg
Christiane Spangsberg 
Veering towards fashion and style now (Spangsberg has even had a collaboration with J.V.Reid, a London fashion brand), it comes as no surprise that Christiane’s personal style expresses minimalistic and clean lines: blue jeans, white shirts, denim shirts. “I mostly work from home – where I feel most safe – and where I can relax”, she was telling an interviewer. Just the bare essentials, removing everything that’s unnecessary. “Sometimes we have a tendency to add more: color, forms, water etc. I want to remove, let the materials and form speak for themselves,” she said in another interview about her work. I think it is her lifestyle philosophy as well. Christiane Spangsberg is an artist with a beautiful soul. Her next project will be in partnership with The Danish Cancer Society, ending with an exhibition in Copenhagen at the end of the year. The money from the sales will be entirely donated to the breast cancer prevention.
 
Shirt Stories Christiane Spangsberg

photos: 1,2-Frederikke Norgard, 3-Christiane Spangsberg artwork, 4-Louise Veng

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Translating Hollywood: The World of Movie Posters

Translating Hollywood The World of Movie Posters

“Only the Japanese poster hints at Belle du jour‘s erotic nature
by showing thumbnail stills. The two painted portraits of the actress
(Czech and French) showcase Deneuve’s beauty, though little else.”


 

Movie posters for the sake of selling
and movie posters for the sake of art


 
With an arresting image and a pithy tag line, a movie poster can catch your eye and make you want to watch the film, without your knowing anything about it beforehand. But can you not know anything about a film that is about to be released in our time and age? We have access to all kinds of information even during the shooting: the subject, the actors starring, the behind the scenes moments, the story behind the movie. The accessibility to the making of a film may aim at building up the public’s interest, but it often has the exact reverse effect on me. And that’s exactly why I believe that it should be given great importance to film posters. Yes, I am talking about the medium that hasn’t always been the domain of Photoshop and graphic design. I am talking about art. It may be a lost art, unfortunately. Film posters that are not about advertising, but about adding something to the experience of the movie – accompanying it rather than simply attempting to sell it. Poster art is a medium designed to speak to the public before the film does, the window to the world or story waiting for you to discover. Another bridge to that world is the title sequence, but that’s a different story that I talked about a while ago.
 
Translating Hollywood
 
“The Argentine and Japanese posters both showcase the film’s Mediterranean setting and a sense of wanderlust. The Czech version uses a black and white newspaper aesthetic with typewriter type stamped across Monica Vitti’s face, eliciting a tragic, newsworthy story.” An interesting contrast, but I am afraid that all these versions fail to capture the essence of Antonioni’s film. I believe a much more evocative option is this one, by Sam Smith, and another choice would have simply been a still from the film, particularly the one used by the Criterion Collection as cover art for their blu-ray and DVD editions.
 
Translating Hollywood The World of Movie Posters
 
Translating Hollywood The World of Movie Posters

Cléo de 5 à 7 (Cleo from 5 to 7), 1961, by Agnès Varda. “Bold striking green lines break up the three distinct moods
of Corinne Marchand. The Japanese version presents Marchand in three fog-like moments of drama,
selling the film’s very touching tale of a woman becoming new again.”


 
I am fascinated by movie posters and when I recently found this book, Translating Hollywood: The World of Movie Posters, in a local bookstore, I grabbed it on the spot. What’s fascinating about it is that the author, Sam Sarowitz, compares posters from a film’s country of origin against versions created for foreign markets. You know what they say, an image speaks a thousand words, and viewing posters of the same film side by side is so revelatory in realising the striking contrast between America and the rest of the world, between just how much America and Hollywood have always been interested in making money with films and in building an industry (you may have heard of the “floating heads syndrome”, a term referring to the tendency for film posters, especially for Hollywood movies, to have a black background with the faces of the lead actors, “the stars”, above the name of the movie, which eventually filtered into many international posters as well), and how much Europe and other parts of the world have been preoccupied in presenting films as an art form.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule. The American poster for Chinatown (left image below), for example, is a beautiful piece of classic illustration (by Jim Pearsall): a lime-lighted Jack Nicholson, smoke becoming Faye Dunaway’s hair, the waves of his chest. Whereas, the Czech version is an absurd surreal work – the truth is the Europeans sometimes overdo it. Although not mentioned in the book, it’s interesting to know that the German version (see below, bottom image on the right page) is a reproduction of another American poster for the movie, by Richard Amsel.
 
Translating Hollywood The World of Movie Posters  
The book brings something bigger into the discussion, as well. “More than about selling a film, these posters from all over the world embody the cultural tendencies of the respective countries, making for fascinating case studies about how information is disseminated visually and digested, and the responses they generate.”

That being said, one of the most pleasant surprises I found in the pages of Translating Hollywood was the Romanian (not Italian, as stated in the book – it’s Vacanță la Roma, not Vacanze romane) poster for Roman Holiday (see first photo below) – such a simple and suggestive art work that best evokes the escapist nature of the film.
 
Translating Hollywood The World of Movie Posters
 
Translating Hollywood The World of Movie Posters

In the original US poster for The Birds, “the famous image of Jessica Tandy’s character
being attacked makes fear the star, not the actual female lead, Tippi Hedren”.
I have always liked this poster, because although there is nothing artistic about it, it is very telling and gripping.
It’s Alfred Hitchcock, after all; he made great movies, and knew how to sell them, too.


 
 
photos of the book taken by me | Translating Hollywood: The World of Movie Posters, by Sam Sarowitz, published by Mark Batty Publisher

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Made in Milan

Martin Scorsese Giorgio Armani documentary

Martin Scorsese and Giorgio Armani

 
In 1990, a Martin Scorsese short documentary about Giorgio Armani, titled Fatto a Milano (Made in Milan) was released to little fanfare and had been practically forgotten until it was brought back to the attention of the public a few months ago. Why it has not been much talk about it, it’s very surprising. What with all the constant fashion documentaries being made and being ranked on all kinds of ‘best of’ lists, it is even harder to understand why this beautiful piece of work, that not only predates the current landscape of fashion films, but also Armani’s own book (I wrote about it here), released two years ago, 25 years after the documentary was made, has been overlooked. Or it may be that others have long known about it, and I haven’t. However, I myself only recently discovered it, and if it is news to you, too, you can watch it here (you should bear in mind that the original version lasts about 25 minutes, unlike the shortened 10-minute-long latest release).
 
Made in Milan Giorgio Armani

Giorgio Armani, the book

 

Giorgio Armani and Martin Scorsese’s partnership has been deep and lasting, just as the influence of films in the designer’s work. The two first worked together on some Armani commercials and the short documentary, then on Goodfellas (1990) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Armani actively supports and funds Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, focused on preserving and restoring neglected film gems. They also collaborated on Scorsese’s 2001 documentary on Italian cinema. In 2015, Armani even teamed up with La Cinémathèque Française in Paris to support an exhibition dedicated to Martin Scorsese. The designer’s passion for cinema is well known, naming it his first great love.

Scorsese, in return, expressed his admiration and respect for the Italian designer in his letter to his long-time friend, appeared in Vanity Fair , in August 2015, preceding the 40th anniversary of the Italian fashion house: “I look at Giorgio’s clothes, at his sense of balance and proportion, line and shape, color and texture, and I’m always astonished all over again. It doesn’t matter who’s wearing them – he makes us all look good. Part of it is because we feel good wearing his clothes.”
 
Made in Milan Giorgio Armani

Giorgio Armani, the book

 

You can definitely notice Scorsese’s classic cinematic style come through in this Armani film portrait, as the director likes to call it, which was written by a long-time collaborator of Scorsese’s, Jay Cocks (Gangs of New York, Mean Streets) and edited by another valued and long-term collaborator, Thelma Schoonmaker. The film, voiced entirely by Armani, follows the designer through Milan, the city that breathes life into his collections, his “chosen city”, where he lives and works, through his studio and onto the runway. Milan is a city that respects you and lets you express yourself, he says, “if you have something to say”, he adds. Armani is subtle, just like his clothes. He is a perfectionist, too. “I think of myself as someone who is a beginner, not as someone who has already said a lot”.

Armani talks about his personal style, about his dressing uniform, about the colour blue. “Why blue? Because I think blue looks good on me.” He talks about his work, about the jacket, where it all started. “I have always insisted upon rigorous simplicity. I can’t stand exhibitionism. It’s all a process… searching for elegance… knowing where to look… then finding it… hidden away.” He is shown before one of his shows, preparing the models, supervising every single detail, directing them before sending them on the catwalk. He talks about his past, while still remaining reserved. He has always been influenced by his own past and his family’s, and by the past of the cinema, but has tried not to be trapped by it. The cinema, which, more than his own fashion collections, can reward him in the most satisfying of ways: eternity. “Society changes, and my clothes change with it. But I try to filter my own ideas through a daily reality. It’s as if I were on a movie set. Life is the movie and my clothes are the costumes.”
 
photos: 1-Marie Claire Italia / photos from sets one and two taken by me from the book Giorgio Armani, published by Rizzoli / set 1: Peter Lindbergh, Giorgio Armani Women FW 1993-94; Aldo Fallai, Giorgio Armani Men SS 1992; Jacques Olivar, Giorgio Armani Women SS 1990/ set 2: Bob Krieger 1978; personal archive of Giorgio Armani, the designer at work in his studio on Via Durini, Milan, 1978; personal archive of Giorgio Armani, Pantelleria, 1995

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